When it comes to looking back on our past, it is not hard to find strong female role models who we can use to model our actions on. Whilst they are not always fighting for the most moral of reasons, they are extremely independent and have certainly made an impact on the world around them. No matter what a modern woman has chosen to be, whether she is a University Student, a Doctor or even a Companion from Flirt Escorts, there are lessons to be learned from the past. That is why we should look to the past to see how we can use it to change our futures.
Here are the Top Ten Strongest Female Figures from History.
1. Artemisia Gentileschi
When it comes to strong female, we should start with one of the strongest Italian Artists who actually used her art as an act of revenge against a man who sexually assaulted her. Not only was Artemisia a master of Baroque art but she played a highly significant part when it came to the revolution of Caravaggio’s realistic art movement. After her rape at the hands of one of her tutors, Taggi, she was forced to endure torture from the courts when she was questioned about the event. From there, the clear pain of her experience was evident in her artwork.
Take one look at her paintings and you will see the anger that she felt at being made so vulnerable. “Susanna and the Elders” depicts a frightened, naked, young woman being subjected to a molesting gaze her onlookers, encapsulating the victimisation of women in relation to the power of men. However, her strength to overcome this is encapsulated by her images of Judith. Each presents a strong woman who is fully in control what she is doing, even when she is in the act of murdering Holofernes. The very action that was committed against her was turned on its head and used as inspiration to put Artemisia back in control of her life. Whilst she was dictated to by a male court, they could not take control of her art or her ideas. Artemisia’s story is an example of how a victimised woman was able to overcome her persecutors, an inspiration to those who have been forced to endure a similar victimisation.
If you are after a fierce and noble British Female Warrior who fought tooth and nail to keep Britain free from Roman Control, Queen Boudica is the sort of woman for you. According to a Roman Scribe, Dio Cassius:
“She was very tall, the glance of her eye most fierce; her voice harsh. A great mass of the reddest hair fell down to her hips. Her appearance was terrifying.”
This Queen was after revenge once her husband’s lands were plundered for their wealth, her daughters raped by Roman slaves and, she herself was publicly flogged. But Boudicca did not allow her to deter her and soon gathered the courage and strength needed to organise a rebellion (with the Trinobantes, Iceni and other tribes) against the Romans. Whilst Boudicca did not win against the Romans, she was still strong enough to fight to the bitter end, to the point where she even compared herself to her fighters, taunting them by saying
“‘Win the battle or perish: that is what I, a woman will do; you men can live on in slavery if that’s what you want.”
The strength that Boudicca needed to continue her fight, even when she eventually took poison to avoid being captured by the Romans, has allowed her to go down in the history books as a Warrior Queen. Her courage is to be admired and used as inspiration for women in the modern day to continue their own fights for what they truly believe in.
Whilst Boudicca continues to be one of the most heard of Queens of the Celtic Period in 1st Century Britain. Whilst Cartimandua was not a warrior queen, she certainly was extremely strong and influential in her power to secure bonds with Rome. Being an enemy of Rome would have been a huge mistake for any Celtic royal and she was known for being extremely pro-roman. Thus, not only was Cartimandua an excellent political strategist, having signed a peace treaty with the invading Romans so that she could rule as a client of Rome but she also independently divorced her husband so that she could be with his armour bearer. This strong independent mentality grew to the point where not even Rome could be in control, thus had to take control to make sure that her ex-husband did not regain power.
Whilst it is unknown what happened to Cartimandua after a Celtic rebellion was incited against, she fled to a Roman Fort in Deva. Whilst she did cause anger from her own people, she was strong enough to follow her own mind and ultimately stop an invading force from doing any further damage to her people.
If we look to Greek Mythology, there are hidden examples of extremely brave and intelligent women. One of them is Penthsilea, the Queen of the Amazons who was extremely respected for her wisdom and skill in handling weapons and her overall bravery. Not only did she lead an army of Amazons to Troy to fight against the Greeks, but she actually managed to defeat Achilles. The only reason she died? Was because Zeus brought him back to life and Achilles killed her. With these unfair odds stacked against her, of course, she did not have a chance, but she at least went down as an extremely strong and brave woman.
Moving on to Ancient Egypt, of course, we have to go with one of the main female pharaohs of Egypt. For Hatshepsut, her very name means “foremost of noblewomen.” Whilst she was a woman, she managed to obtain full power of Egypt by adopting the full male titles and image of a pharaoh. Even looking at her image now, through the ancient statues that remain, you can see how masculine her image remains. Whilst she did dress like a typical Queen, her statues actually have a male body with the traditional costume of a kilt, crown, head-cloth and beard. She was dressed in the art as was expected from a noble king, and Hatshepsut certainly delivered on this traditional image.
Not only is Hatshepsut is known for her successful architecture, such as the construction of the Great Temple of Deir el-Bahari at Luxor, but she also administrated the first successful sea voyage of the northeast coast of Africa, also known as the land of Punt, where they traded with the inhabitants. She was so successful that even Besty Bryan, a writer of a section in the “The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt”, even writes that “as a ruler, Hatshepsut inaugurated building projects that far outstripped those of her predecessors.” Hatshepsut did not need to be a warrior queen in order to retain her power, instead, she was calm and methodical, focusing on trade and the expansion of her nation’s wealth. This allowed for her reign to remain stable.
6. Empress Wu Zetian
When it comes to power hungry women, there are some that are so strong that they practically become an unstoppable force of nature. This is true of Wu Zetian, the Chinese Empress between 690-705. She is known as the only woman who was able to be Emporer of China, however, also holds a few more stories that tend to demonise her independence and strategic nature.
Not only did she become Empress by becoming one of the emperor’s favourites, but she actually had a rival (Empress Wang) who the Emporer sent to prison when she convinced him that she had murdered her daughter out of spite. From there, Wu built up a strong range of connections in government and even began to eliminate rivals. When the emperors became sick, that was when Empress Wu began to rule through him. When he died, she ended up ruling through her son who was too young to rule on his own. But even then, in 690, she had her son step down as emperor so that she could rule with the new dynasty, “The Zhou Dynasty.”
Empress Wu was certainly not a nice character to meet, but she certainly knew how to keep power. Not only did she maintain a secret police system to maintain loyalty, but she actually was extremely intelligent and made decisions that allowed China to prosper. She promoted people based on their abilities rather than history, even to the point where she was able to take over new lands (such as Korea and Central Asia)and improve the lives of peasants by lowering taxes, building public works and improving farming techniques. She died a natural death and her son was able to take over and re-establish the Tang Dynasty.
Empress Wu was an incredible force of nature that was able to get exactly what she wanted through sheer willpower and intelligence. Not many people can boast that they took over all of China, thus she does serve as an inspiration to those who wish to maintain their independence and improve their decision making.
7. Wang Zhenyi
Remaining within ancient China, if we are to look towards the intellectual side, the Qing Dynasty (18th Century) saw the emergence of Wang Zhenyi, an astronomer and mathematician who wrote several books on scientific discussion, including “Dispute of the Procession of the Equinoxes”, “Dispute of Longitude and Stars” and “The Explanation of a Lunar Eclipse”. Not only did her female status breach the feudal customs at the time, which did hinder women’s rights and forced her to educate herself in astronomy, mathematics, geography and medicine, but she was also known for her influence on Chinese poetry. As an acclaimed scholar, she managed to influence both culture and intelligent discussion just because of her passion for the subjects. This shows how interest and intrigue can truly motivate women to focus on what they enjoy and become true professionals.
8. Ching Shih
If you are looking for true rags to riches sort of story, then you just have to look at Ching Shih. Once she was a Chinese Prostitute but soon became a powerful female pirate, the captain of the infamous Red Flag Fleet. Not only did her fleet grow under her rule, but she actually expanded her loot raiding business to the point where she actually managed to create an organised system of business. She was an extremely successful pirate, having married her former captain “Zhèng Yi”, and even when she was taken by the Chinese government, she managed to maintain the riches and power she received as a captain. She was a skilled negotiator, businesswoman and certainly deserved the title of “Pirate Lord.”
9. The Lioness of Brittany
Also known as Jeanne de Clisson, this is another example of the strength of a Pirate Queen. When King Philip VI of France executed her husband, she retaliated by hunting down the King’s ships with a fleet of Warships. Her nickname of the “The Lioness of Brittany” was earned by her ruthlessness and ferocity during battle. She would slaughter ships of men, but would leave two or three sailors alive so that the message could return to the King that the “Lioness” had struck again with her “Black Fleet.” After 13 years of fighting, she was eventually captured by French Authorities, but after finding love with Sie Walter Brentley, she was allowed to retire to a quiet life to the Castle of Hennebont in France. This shows how she was actually able to get a happy ending despite her rampage. Strength and determination managed to get her exactly what she wanted, thus should be admired.
10. Eva Perón
From humble beginnings, Eva Perón, also known as “Evita”, was the second wife of the Argentine President Juan Perón. Whilst you may think that she was just a pretty face of the nation, she actually became an unofficial political powerhouse that was practically worshipped by the lower economic classes.
Although Eva never held any true governmental post, she did create voluntary unions and became an image of hope for the lower classes. She also created resources that established thousands of schools, orphanages, hospitals and old-folks homes. Eva was so powerful that she even assisted in the passing of the woman suffrage law, as well as the formation of the Peronista Feminist Party in 1949.
Overall, Eva Perón was a huge political figure that guided Argentina into a more stable relationship between the traditional upper-classes and the lower orders. She proved that whilst she was a woman, she still had power and was able to influence the world by sticking to her own independent thoughts and interests.
Using the Past to Impact the Present
When it comes to the past, not all of the women who we remember were moral. Some fought on the wrong side of history and ended up being remembered for it. However, what truly links them all together is their strength and bravery, as well as their independence of thought and action. Whilst the women of today should, perhaps, not be as “over-the-top” as some of these role models, but there is still something that can be modelled. The idea of a legend is someone who inspires others from there story. That is why there is always something that can be learned from the strength of these women, especially when it comes to the inspiration of the women of today.